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Free Fall

Year: 1964
Language: English
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 9 min
Director: Arthur Lipsett
Producer: Tom Daly, Colin Low
Writer: Arthur Lipsett
Editor: Arthur Lipsett
Sound: George Croll, Arthur Lipsett
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada
A pitilessly wry comment on modern man and human behaviour, Arthur Lipsett’s fourth film is a dreamlike interpretation of mankind’s fall from grace into banality. Though comparable to his earlier animated collage films Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) and 21-87 (1963), Free Fall is in many ways more accomplished. It possesses the same sour view of humanity and the aimlessness of modern life, but the collage technique – joining a collection of photographs to audio scraps of conversation – is more controlled and sophisticated. The film reveals both the possibilities of the medium and Lipsett’s dynamic sensibility and mode of expression.

Lipsett stated that his objective with Free Fall was to emulate visually the poetry of Dylan Thomas; the film is essentially a juxtaposition of Thomas’s “The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower” and Arthur Rimbaud’s poem, “A Season in Hell.” So obsessed was Lipsett with this goal that he wrote the first line of the Thomas poem on the mirror in his apartment. He shot many of the images himself using Norman McLaren’s animation camera as though he were shooting stills; the technique creates the effect of an impressionist painting in motion.

Lipsett deliberately avoided adhering to any kind of logical construction with the film, aiming instead to suppress rational modes of perception in an effort to create an intuitive expression that could potentially contain unexpected discoveries. Though two main themes stand out – the randomness of nature (the “force of nature” from Thomas’s poem) and the inherent subjectivity of a person’s response to nature – it is left to the viewer to unravel or decode the mysteries presented.